RPG’s are once more becoming big business like we haven’t seen since the eighties. Is that due to the rise of the nerd? Or are people lamenting that the current tech generation has failed; delivering only shinier and shinier graphics while stripping back in area’s like story and game play? Or is it simply because there are now more than ever, since D&D toppled due to it’s own hubris in the switch from 3.5 to 4, allowing floods of games to reach the market; from slight modifications of old systems to games promising to deliver on the promise of hit television shows, movies and comic book lines.
Truth be told I don’t know; but I do know where they fall down. Yes you get to sit round a table with your friends eating funyuns and drinking mountain dew. Though that means actually getting your friends together and for long enough to play the campaign. This also means one of you setting up a fun, engaging tale for the others to play. So how do we overcome these challenges? We simply watch others as let’s plays have come to the land of the pen and paper role playing game. But I won’t be talking about that hit role playing let’s play, nor that one, or even that one. Instead I will be going all the way back to 2008 for……………………………………………………………………..
Starring the two guys from Penny Arcade as Omin Dran and Jim Darkmagic and their mate from PVPonline as Binwin Bronzebottom, ‘Acq Inc’ is an eight episode long podcast following the titular group and their journey into Shadowfell Keep to hunt out the “legendary” goblin Iron Tooth.
Of course thing’s do not go well or to plan for our intrepid, heroic, adventuring group as they run through the first game outlined for the then brand new and shiny 4th edition of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’. Run by two big wigs from Wizards of the Coast itself, Chris Perkins and James Wyatt; who tag in and out half way through, the game is best described as a comedy, though unlike other such d&d flavoured podcasts like ‘Happy Dragon Friends’ and because of being pretty much an advert for the new edition the comedy instead comes from the parties general ineptitude and bad luck with dice rolls.
Now you have to know this is an official advert from the branch office of Wizards of the Coast before you get into this and you have to know this is a mish mash of at least two pre-generated encounters pulled out for this one off display. See at the time this was just one such event run for promotional purposes alongside a game with the minds of Robot Chicken, one with the best fantasy writers they had on speed dial and one “British” one giving us the head of GW and the writer of Father Ted exploring a dungeon together. How were they to know this would be the one they would end up being able to charge money for people to see at the cinema like some jumped up BBC episode for a Steven Moffat production.
Thus the story is thin and the rules are brought up a lot, especially with two old players who have been out of the game for a while and one who’s never rolled a dice outside of “Monopoly” and “Snakes and Ladders” before. However likewise this is a pretty good podcast for those looking to get into the hobby, you get to see two “professional” DM’s at work and you get a feel for a how a typical dungeons and dragons game would go. You know one where not everybody is a professional comedian, voice actor and or entertainer, just people who think they are.
It’s not perfect with a dungeon crawl coming off badly in podcast form and what story there is being skimmed over with the DM at a few points suggesting that there is more to this and a believable amount of set up for things like murderous death cults hiding beneath but that truth be told it’s a bit boring and can be skipped in favour of more volleys of Jim’s Magic missile and more complaints about all the math.
The series for me at least has advantages over several other of the big names in the business even now. For a start each episode comes in at about the forty minute mark meaning it’s possible to listen to it on the way to work or on a walk into town, rather than being a youtube video that runs for over three hours each week. It also focuses on the game rather than the “witty” and “clever antics meaning it’s not as dependent on you liking the people on show and god knows that can be a blessing with Tycho and Gabe who have a habit of rubbing people the wrong way and then making it worse rather than saying sorry. Having said that they could really do with a fourth who can bring something new and fresh to the table, not counting Splug the Goblin of course, but still someone with something that we’re all eager to hear.
You can find episode 1 here.